Even though I am happy with our current curriculum choices, I continue to consider the future and other curriculum alternatives. I am a student at heart, and love learning, so it follows that I love learning about methods of learning!
Anyway, I was browsing the Ambleside Online website the other day (amblesideonline.org), which I had apparently never been to before, despite having read other people's comments about the curriculum. It is quite fascinating, and I'm afraid I may end up spending quite a bit more time there, perusing the book lists. Basically, AmblesideOnline (AO for short) is a free online version of the Charlotte Mason approach to learning. The website has much more information about what this approach is, but it involves a lot of "living" books, a lot of nature study and active exploration of our world, hands-on productive craft work, and a somewhat freer approach to learning than textbooks, but yet more structured than student-led approaches, and can be quite rigorous and in-depth even through high school. At least, that's how I would describe it after my brief perusal. Charlotte Mason is the "no twaddle" approach that you may have heard described.
Sonlight, one of my other favorites, is partially a Charlotte Mason approach, so that explains why I am also attracted to AO. AO is cheaper (many of the books on the lists are available for free online - though if you wanted to buy them all, I'm sure the prices would come out close to Sonlight), but requires more planning on the parent's part. It sticks with one book for a longer period of time than Sonlight, and seems to use older texts. Anyway, that's a brief review if you're looking for a curriculum review.
What I mainly wanted to note in this blog is that I was surprised to read that Charlotte Mason believed in evolution and an old Earth. Most Christian adherants to Charlotte Mason homeschooling do not, nowadays, but apparently, in her time, around when Darwin first published his results, many Christians accepted evolution and easily saw how it could be understood as a method God may have used to create the Earth. That has always been my belief too - that God can use any method He wants to create the world, and to just categorically deny this possibility is to put God in a box, making Him smaller than He really is.
I have also read recently about how many Christians, raised with an anti-evolution mindset/worldview, fall away from their belief in God when they study more of the details of evolution in college, and find themselves among people who strongly believe in evolution. This is not surprising to me, as I have personally witnessed this "falling away" of other Christians at this stage of life.
What most Christian homeschool material suggests to prevent this from happening is to teach anti-evolution creationism so strongly in the K-12 years, providing counter-attack arguments to every evolutionary idea, that the student will never doubt their beliefs. One problem with this, however, is that evolutionists have come up with counter-counter-attacks for all these issues, and will continue to do so. If even one of these arguments makes sense to a Christian student who has always been taught that evolution equals atheism, then they risk falling away from God.
What I believe is a much better approach is to teach your young students that even evolution requires God. Even if you don't believe in evolution, you can still teach that those who do believe in it still need to (and can) have God in their equations. Even evolution, despite it making so much of "creation" possible without God's direct hand, still requires God at the beginning - at the very beginning, before time began, before the universe popped into existance. Exactly how much God "guided" evolution is totally debatable (and unprovable - it's just philosophies at this point) - you can go from no interaction at all after a first activating touch, up to frequent guidance at every genetic permutation.
The advent of Adam and Eve is still completely possible with an evolutionary viewpoint: at a certain time, when the human form had become what God intended it to be, He breathed His spirit into the specimen He had chosen, making Adam the first true human, and quite distinct from all other "animal" forms (created from the dust, no less - from the very smallest building blocks of life - just over a longer period of time than generally assumed). I know - preposterous to many of you who believe evolution to be crazy. But for those whose scientific investigations force them to believe in evolution, would you rather they hold to such a possibility and still believe in God, or have them fall into atheism?
My point is that evolution does not negate God. Evolution does not negate the Bible. It may perhaps require a different interpretation that you are used to, but believe me, it does not negate even the first chapters of Genesis. Those who claim that it does are following tradition, not Scripture.
This is such a sore point with me because I see so many scientifically-minded people throw God and the Bible away, because they have been told so often that "Christians can't believe in evolution." Teaching evolution does not make students fall away from God. Teaching that Christians can't believe in evolution is what make students fall away from God.